news Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis has raised the “alarm” over the Opposition’s decision to undertake a review of its support for the Government’s controversial Data Retention legislation, saying Labor must ‘stick to its word’ and continue to show support for the policy.
On Friday Labor passed a motion at its National Conference that will see it formally review the Data Retention legislation passed earlier this year, adding to an existing planned review enshrined in the legislation itself. The motion was pushed by NSW State Labor MP Jo Haylen, who has links to the party’s left-wing faction, which has long been concerned about the data retention legislation.
The motion changes Labor’s National Policy Platform to state that the party will “will review the retention of telecommunications data by carriage services providers under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act and the regulation of access to telecommunications data by law enforcement and national security agencies.”
But in a statement issued this evening, Senator Brandis — the architect, along with the Attorney-General’s Department, ASIO and the AFP — of the legislation, expressed grave concerns over Labor’s decision.
“Alarmingly, the convention also cast doubt upon Labor’s support for mandatory data retention laws, which they supported in Parliament earlier this year,” Senator Brandis said.
“Metadata is a vital investigative building block which is central to virtually every counter-terrorism, organised crime, counter-espionage, cyber-security and child exploitation investigation. It is used in almost every serious criminal investigation, including murder, rape and kidnapping.”
“Bill Shorten and Mark Dreyfus must stick to their word and recommit the Labor Party to this legislation, which introduced important safeguards and oversight arrangements including significantly reducing the number of agencies that can access the data. Mr Shorten must confirm that if elected, he will not repeal our data retention laws. The Australian people deserve the certainty that our national security agencies will continue to have access to the data they need to investigate and interdict terrorist networks.”
Senator Brandis also attacked a perceived lack of national security discussion at the ALP conference in general, saying the event showed that national security was not a priority for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the “divided Australian Labor Party he leads”.
“In September 2014, on ASIO advice, the terror threat level was raised to High for the first time. Since then, there have been two attacks and six disruptions,” said Senator Brandis. “There are currently around 120 Australians who are fighting in Syria and Iraq, and around 160 people in Australia providing support to individuals and groups involved in the conflicts. ASIO is managing over 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations, double the number 12 months ago.”
“Yet, the ALP had nothing to say about these issues. In his opening address, Bill Shorten could not find room for a single sentence on Australia’s security and the fight against terrorism. That didn’t change for the remainder of the conference.”
“Bill Shorten must remember that the nation’s security, and the safety of its people, should be the first priority of any government.”
Labor’s motion also attracted criticism from the Greens, with Senator Scott Ludlam stating on Twitter that it was too late for Labor to “reinvent Data Retention history”, as the party had already voted for the policy:
— Scott Ludlam (@SenatorLudlam) July 25, 2015
Attacked by the Greens from the left for reviewing its data retention policy, and attacked by the Government from the right for reviewing its data retention policy. It feels like Labor did something very good with its data retention policy review announced last week — something very smart. If every other political party is feeling threatened by a decision you make, that’s always an indication you’re absolutely on the right track.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting